Rural Enterprise - Farm Diversification

At CAFRE a dedicated Rural Enterprise Team offer a wide range of training programmes and 1:1 support to assist farmers and farm family members considering farm diversification. The Rural Enterprise team will help clients investigate new business ideas for their farm.

Clients can access support and training at various stages throughout the process of diversification – it is never too late or early to avail of the free support which CAFRE can offer your farm business.

Diversification Challenge - Business Development Programme

This is a 9 week course designed to help established farm diversification and rural businesses plan for the future. The programme gets business owners to appraise their current situation and start planning for the future; may that be expansion, employing staff, marketing via social media, developing a new product, investing in new technology or simply becoming more efficient. Over the 9 weeks clients will hear from specialist speakers and mentors about various topics which will help enhance their business. It was for these reasons Seamus Beggan, Hidden Gem Cottages completed the Diversification Development Programme.
Seamus farms a smallholding in the townland of Derryneece, near Roslea and in 2007 he began considering farm diversification options for his traditional barn. The stone barn had fallen into a state of disrepair internally although the external walls were remarkably sound for their age. Mindful of the need to generate an income from any future use of the barn, it was decided to investigate rural tourism options for the building. Seamus also felt that CAFRE’s Diversification Challenge Programme was the ideal course to help him explore his business idea.
From this process Seamus engaged architects, successfully sought planning permission and started bringing his ‘Hidden Gem’ self-catering cottages to life in southeast rural Fermanagh. Conversion work on the stone barn began in January 2012 and lasted approximately eighteen months. The project also coincided with the DARD 2007 – 2013 Rural Development Programme and was successful in securing SWARD financial support for the conversion.
Now fully restored, these exquisite cottages provide accommodation for up to six people and make the most of this original vernacular stone barn. This chic conversion, with a full complement of beams and flag stones, successfully blends the old world with modern technology. The interiors are a fabulous mix of vintage finds and modern pieces. Log burning stoves in traditional style hearths give the cottages that homely feeling and provide contrast to a host of modern integrated appliances and Wi-Fi internet connection. Visitors are made feel comfortable yet connected in this secluded location.
Hidden gem cottages opened for business in mid-2013, having been awarded NITB four star status. Initial visitor reaction has been very positive with customers from as far away as New Zealand, Scotland and Kerry. Seamus highlighted the need for those embarking on a diversification to consider all the options and be mindful of the financial implications. Looking to the future he feels the venture will prove worthwhile as word spreads and visitor numbers increase. It’s remarkable to think that some 150 years after the farmstead’s inception, new life has been breathed into it in the form of tourism. This new beginning is set to play a part in the life of future generations of his family.
To attend either Diversification Challenge - Business Development Programme or to get further details about farm diversification please contact Eamon O’Harte on 028 66343100 or email eamon.oharte@dardni.gov.uk or Siobhan Sheppard 028 86768276 or email siobhan.sheppard@dardni.gov.uk.

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